There is a time in the initial consultation with a potential Mississippi family law client when we have finished talking about all the biographical data, income, assets, insurance and other black and white stuff when I sit back and say, “Tell me your story.”
That’s the part of the meeting when the client tells me how they ended up in a lawyer’s office. It is necessary to talk about the ugly stuff so that I can start putting the pieces together and help a potential client develop realistic goals and a plan to accomplish those goals. If I don’t know everything, I cannot effectively develop a plan.
You may be in denial.
You may be ashamed.
You may be lying to yourself or others, but if you do not tell me the whole story, I cannot help you. This goes for any other lawyer you work with too.
We all have our own brand of garbage. I am not excluded from this category. Ask anyone that really knows me. While it is difficult to tell a total stranger all the bad stuff in your life, that’s what divorces and family conflict are about- the bad stuff. Trust me, I have my own brand of garbage too, so does your spouse, so does the other lawyer and so does the judge. It is just part of being a human being living on this planet. If you have been in a bad marriage, you probably have your guard up. The same holds true if you thought you were in a good marriage and you got blindsided by your spouse. The worst mistake you can make in an attorney/client relationship is to start off being less than honest. It is like asking a really good poker player for their wisdom on how to play the game without letting them see the hand they have been dealt. They can do it, but they will be much more effective if you just let them see their hand- ALL FIVE CARDS. Everything that you say to your attorney is completely confidential. According to Rule 1.6 of the Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct, “A lawyer shall NOT reveal information relating to the representation of a client unless the client gives informed consent, the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, or the disclosure is permitted…” In other words, when you tell your lawyer, it is in the vault. It is as safe as the information can be, and the disclosure will only be used in a way to further your legal position.
Not only is being honest the best way to work with your lawyer, it is also the best way to live. To know and be known is at the core of who we are as individuals. Being known starts with honesty. That’s how God hardwired us. When we live in a way that tries to push all that stuff down, we have a constipated existence.
Your own brand of garbage is just that, garbage. It does not define you. When you wrap your mind around that truth, you can start to live without a weight around your neck. If you are to the point where you needed to meet with a lawyer, the first step is to be honest. Let us know the hand we are dealt and that way we can put you in the best possible position to succeed.
Craig Robertson is a divorce attorney practicing throughout Mississippi.